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Jessie Zinn (24)

Filmmaker and director

Jessie Zinn was a performance-oriented child who could always be found jumping off tables and chasing butterflies.

Cape Town’s Baxter theatre foregrounded her childhood years because as the child of a theatre journalist, she accompanied her mom as she went around reviewing plays and interviewing the thespians who brought them to life.
However, it never occurred to her young mind that she too could be a director, because those seemed to be roles usually occupied by men. Being born in 1994 means that Jessie is a “democracy baby” and it is the limits and the possibilities of this reality that continues to occupy her mind, and her work.

“As born-frees, we are really doing the most — we are looking around at this context that we have inherited, and we are noticing things that have not been noticed before and we are saying: ‘Hey, I want to talk about this.’ We are using our context to speak about the things that matter to us. It is a fortunate time to be a woman in this space.”

The University of Cape Town graduate’s films have been screened at Visions Du Reel, Encounters, and Durban International Film Festival. Her most recent short film Can I Please Go to the Bathroom? was a Sundance Ignite finalist and won the second prize of the Youth Jury Award at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival.

The film explores how menstrual periods are just one of many rites of passage that influence women to modulate and curate their bodies in some shape or form. “When you are on your period, beyond being made to feel embarrassed about it, you are distracted by how you always have to look behind you, and I wanted to explore what that means for young girls.” — Nomonde Ndwalaza

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Reginald Witbooi (29)

Reginald Witbooi (29)

Reporter, SABC

When Reginald Witbooi isn’t examining rivers to report on pollution he might be in the Karoo covering the progress of the world-leading SKA (Square Kilometre Array) radio telescope.

Witbooi is a radio and TV journalist for the SABC, and has won several awards for his reporting. “I was appointed as a radio journalist four years ago, but I’m also doing TV journalism. I don’t compare the two with each other, as long as the story is being told,” he says.

“I write stories because I believe everyone has a voice — but we as journalists need to boost those voices. The stories I love to cover are human interest stories, and it’s in my pen, notebook and technology that I get to call officials to account.”

Last year he won an SAB Environmental Award in the radio category for a pollution story, after Upington residents complained that sewage was flowing into the Orange River. I travelled 400km to cover this piece, to visit the site and get first-hand accounts,” he says. “The residents didn’t lie, and the fact that their local municipality admitted to the problem, but didn’t do anything for quite some time, baffled me. People are consuming water from the river.”

He also won the Southern African Development Community Award in the radio category last year.

Witbooi comes from a modest background in George in the Western Cape; his mother was a domestic worker and his father was a cleaner at a high school. His parents made ends meet to provide for him and his other five siblings, but he was the only one in his family to go to university. He holds a BA in Communications from the University of the Western Cape, then went on to study journalism at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

In his spare time, Witbooi does voluntary work for Caritas, a nongovernmental organisation that helps abused women and children. His desire to help was sparked through his work, when he covered a story in 2016 about a six-year-old who was brutally killed when he tried to protect his mother from a possible rapist.

“I enjoy volunteering because I believe nongovernmental organisations need more hands, and a lot of events are taking place. Also, I am seeing daily how women and children are being abused, and enough is just enough,” he says. — Lesley Stones

Cait Pansegrouw (29)

Cait Pansegrouw (29)

Film producer and co-owner of Urucu Media

When you watch a movie you might think how perfect the actors are for their role, but do you ever think about the person who actually cast them?

For the excellent but controversial movie Inxeba, that person was Cait Pansegrouw, the casting director and producer. Pansegrouw is proud of having stood up to intimidation as a tiny but vocal minority tried to have the film that was set in an initiation school banned. They lost, and the movie that had already won 28 international awards and been shortlisted for an Oscar returned to local cinemas.

“Inxeba was both the hardest and the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life. It was an incredibly intense experience,” she says. “I was exposed to blatant homophobia, hate speech, death threats, intimidation, deeply entrenched patriarchal systems and unlawful reclassification and censorship. It was, at times, painful and disturbing. But this was also a story of hope, bravery and tenacity. I was propelled into a space which introduced me to profoundly inspiring people; particularly human rights activists and LGBTQIA members, advocates and activists.”

The film sparked passionate, challenging and uncomfortable conversations that she believes are very necessary for this country. “I feel immensely fortunate to have been part of something I so fiercely believe in and continue to be proud of. I look forward to creating more provocative films with strong and audacious cinematic voices,” she says.
She’s doing that as the co-owner of Urucu Media with Elias Ribeiro. Together they have produced numerous short films, a documentary and five feature films in six years. Their work is often audacious and challenges the status quo, because they believe cinema is a powerful tool to drive social change.

Pansegrouw’s favourite part of the job is working with directors and guiding them to bring the stories to life. “It takes years to make a film, so you enter into a very intense relationship with your directors over a long period. I really believe in the power of art; it has the ability to challenge the status quo, encourage introspection and dialogue and inspire empathy,” she says.

Urucu’s projects have attracted funding from the World Cinema Fund and Creative Europe, and been licensed to broadcasters including Netflix, HBO and MNET. The company also runs Realness, a screenwriters’ residency for emerging African voices. — Lesley Stones

Sikelelwa Geya Mdingi (35)

Sikelelwa Geya Mdingi (35)

Manager, Global Health Strategies

An adventurous spirit and no fear of trying something new have guided Sikelelwa Geya Mdingi’s career choices over the past 13 years.

She has worked in an array of media roles, starting at the SABC as intern on news and current affairs show Special Assignment. She spent four years with the public broadcaster, rising through the ranks to become a producer on the investigative show Cutting Edge. Mdingi then moved into TV production at Engage Entertainment, and learned a lot about content production, script writing, directing and dealing with, sometimes difficult, talent.

At 28 she joined the media department at Nelson Mandela University, teaching journalism and media modules. “I loved seeing students growing in the craft, it was highly rewarding,” she says. “I loved it when my students got that ‘aha’ moment when they realised they could actually be great journalists.” A number of students she taught are now rising stars in print and broadcast journalism, and many attribute their success to her dedicated mentorship.

To many people, Mdingi’s face is familiar from her four years with the broadcaster eNCA. “Every day you got a front row seat to witness the history of our country unfolding, but at the same time helping bring South Africans into the moment. Covering the Fees Must Fall protests and the Esidimeni tragedy remain experiences I’ll never forget,” she says.

“My favourite assignments were human interest stories. I was always in awe of how people allowed us into their pain, difficulties, and very emotive moments, and I understood the responsibility of conveying those moments to rest of South Africa. But most importantly when South Africans rose to the occasion, offering helping hands — that for me was everything. Or even getting government to move, giving a glimmer of hope to those seeking answers, I found that more fulfilling.”

She is now the manager for Global Health Strategies, using her experience in journalism to raise awareness of reproductive health issues such as access to safe abortions.

Her goal is to make women understand that South Africa has one of the greatest sexual reproductive laws, the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act, and it’s their right to access this service without the fear of stigma, guilt and shaming. “If we make even one or two women realise they don’t have to go to that backstreet abortion, then the work is done,” she says. — Lesley Stones

Sumeya Gasa (25)

Sumeya Gasa (25)

Investigative journalist, Wits Justice Project

Journalist Sumeya Gasa is an expert in the new skills needed to disseminate information in our multimedia world.
She combines the arts of writing, documentary filmmaking and researching to create award-winning multimedia news stories.

Born in Durban, she moved to Johannesburg to study performance and visual arts at Wits University, majoring in film & television, arts management and psychology.

That earned her a job as a multimedia journalist with News24, and later with Chronicle, the multimedia partner to the online site The Daily Maverick.

At Chronicle, Gasa and her colleagues produced the investigative multimedia feature Casualties of Cola, which won a CNN Africa Journalist Award in the Ecobank Economics category, the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Regional Online Award and third prize at the Taco Kuiper Awards.

Her next personal goal was to pursue a master’s in Digital Arts and Interactive Media at Wits; her research saw her investigating the impact of gentrification on generations of displaced families. She spent a year in Cape Town investigating the land policies that inform Cape Town’s spatial injustice, and followed the lives of four families who had been displaced during apartheid and faced the same fate decades later due to urban gentrification.

Their stories inspired Gasa to return to Johannesburg to shed light on the disastrous effects gentrification is having on some people’s lives and the generational legacy of displacement. To do that she is using technology to create interactive audio-visual stories about the gentrification of Johannesburg.

In her day job, Gasa is an investigative journalist and multimedia producer at the Wits Justice Project. She also teaches a writing course at the Market Photo Workshop, and teaches video editing at Wits School of Film and Television. In her spare time, she mentors a number of budding filmmakers and digital artists.

Gasa is committed to advocating for social justice through her creative work and research, and her work appears in influential publications including The Daily Maverick, News24 and the Socio Economics Rights Institute’s media.
For her PhD, she intends to study the art of participatory filmmaking. Her goal is to develop a high school curriculum to give learners the necessary tools to tell their own stories. She also hopes to establish an educational centre for young people to gain multimedia skills and take control over their narratives. — Lesley Stones

Dr Rofhiwa Mukhudwana (34)

Dr Rofhiwa Mukhudwana (34)

Communication Science lecturer, Unisa

Improving the way that government departments communicate is Dr Rofhiwa Mukhudwana’s passion.

She’s a senior lecturer at the department of communication science at the University of South Africa (Unisa), and was the head of media studies before going on sabbatical to research a book she is planning to write on communication strategies.

Mukhudwana is passionate about government and political communication, decolonial studies, foreign policy and black feminism. As an intellectual, she’s also a champion of the power of education, and supervises PhD and master’s students on government communication and on the intersections between media, decoloniality and black feminism.

There is a plethora of literature about how to apply communication management models used by the private sector to the public sector, but very little acknowledgement of how different the public sector actually is, she says. Rarely has a study evaluated the impact of those differences on the practice of government communication. Mukhudwana sought to fill this gap, and her PhD thesis explored how the unique environment of the public sector influences the practice of communication management by government departments. She found that the negative aspects were reduced when that communication became strategic, ethical and professional, and her study led to the development of a framework for the practice of government communication.

She says her biggest regret is that after completing her own master’s at 23, she never thought of studying further. “I only completed my PhD at 32 because of a lack of direction and mentorship, thinking PhDs and professorships were the domains of old white men and fewer older black people,” she says. “I appreciate seeing young academics entering the industry and excelling.”

But that requires great teachers, she believes. “I remember little from the content taught in class. All I remember is the excitement, the discussions and interactions with classmates and lecturers. Teaching is not only about content, but about inciting interest for knowledge about the discipline, the subject, topic and its case studies,” she says. “Whether the student is in class or in cyberspace, they must be motivated to learn.”

Her future goals are to attain professorship and expand her knowledge on issues of blackness, media, communication, government and Black-African feminism. She’d also like to see a centre established to specialise in government communication research. — Lesley Stones

Zandile Tisani (32)

Zandile Tisani (32)

Writer and director, Arcade Content

Filmmaker Zandile Tisani is likely to upset a few people by creating work that examines life from a black female point of view. And she’ll probably be very happy if her movies have you squirming with embarrassment and laughing at the same time.

Like her short film Heroes, a dark comedy that explores a white community’s reaction to a black family moving into the neighbourhood in 1994. It was shot in Bryanston and Westdene and is based on the true story of her own family first moving to a posher suburb of Port Elizabeth and later discovering the neighbours had held a meeting to discuss how the community felt about a black family moving in. Heroes was filmed after Tisani was one of 10 female filmmakers to win a grant from the National Film and Video Foundation to help bring their ideas to fruition.

Storytelling is a creative way of ordering her thoughts and preoccupations, she says, and it’s really important to her that black women feel free to comment on whatever they would like to. “I believe you need to really put yourself on the line,” she says.

Tisane focuses on screenwriting but has a broader background in fine art, styling and photography. Her understanding of how to construct a narrative is tied to a commitment to wow audiences with powerful imagery, she says. It’s obviously working, because Design Indaba has praised her for vibrant and powerful imagery that strikes a chord with audiences.

For the web series, People You May Know, she wrote the script and directed and starred in it. The series reflects her interest in character-driven stories that are constructed to express the various urban African identities that give Jo’burg its shape. The series was an official selection at Series Mania Paris 2017 and won her the OneX Pitch Deal at the New York Television Festival.

She also directed Zaki Ibrahim’s Go Widdit music video, and has made two short Jo’burg-based documentaries, Highlands and Style Diary: Yeoville, which showcase the strong sense of place in all her work. Highlands was produced as part of the Encounters Documentary Film Festival Laboratory.

Tisane joined Arcade Content last year, where she films advertising and branded content for clients including Standard Bank, Castle Lite, Kotex and Superbalist. — Lesley Stones

Vian Roos (28)

Vian Roos (28)

Art Director at Farmer’s Weekly

Vian Roos was raised in the agricultural town of Bethlehem in the Free State. In 2011 he completed a BA in Graphic Design at The Design School and at the tender age of 24 he was appointed art director at Farmer’s Weekly, South Africa’s oldest magazine, two years after joining the organisation.

His job involves liaising with journalists on developing stories and then creating a framework around which the visuals can further strengthen the story. This is in a context where changes in magazine audience consumption patterns have meant that media workers need to be more deliberate in striking a solid balance between content and the visuals. The 105th-year issue of the publication saw Roos switch things up from a design perspective.

“It was time for us to innovate on our digital and print offerings and keep track of our competitors, while retaining readership in a situation where people do not easily adapt to change.”

His approach to photography places emphasis on being present — especially during the unnoticed moments — and that has allowed him to explore his deep fascination with clouds. “I like looking up into the sky and just snapping. A cloud is as it is in that moment; you see it, you snap it and you cannot recreate it.”

As a young person in South Africa, Roos is sometimes frustrated at the rigidity and ageism which young people’s ideas are often met with. Travel has transformed him and his outlook, but this country continues to warm his heart. “Every place has its problems, but there is something about this place; South Africa is definitely more fun than anywhere else.” — Nomonde Ndwalaza

Greig Cameron (32)

Greig Cameron (32)

Writer and director, Triggerfish Animation Studios

As a kid, Greig Cameron watched a LOT of cartoons. “I watched even more as a teen and began to suspect there was a problem. By the time I was in my twenties and still binge-watching children’s television, I figured I either needed an intervention or to make a career out of it,” he jokes.

So he did, and today Cameron is writing and directing animation for Triggerfish, Africa’s most prestigious animation studio. Triggerfish created two of the country’s biggest box office successes, Adventures in Zambezia and Khumba, and Cameron has been chosen to direct its third feature film, Seal Team.

“It’s a story about a young seal off the coast of Cape Town, who forms a military team to fight sharks. It’s going to be jam-packed full of humour, action and heart. Finding Nemo meets The A-Team,” he explains, with the sort of humour that will no doubt swim throughout the production.

His career began as a staff writer on South Africa’s first locally-produced half-hour cartoon, Urbo: the Adventures of Pax Afrika. Then he wrote and directed 45 episodes of Supa Strikas, about the world’s best soccer team, and wrote 60 issues of the comic.

“Like many South Africans, I grew up reading the comic, so helping the TV show reach hundreds of countries and successfully compete with Star Wars and Marvel shows was a big moment for my career,” he says.

More recently he was head writer on a series of shorts called Moosebox, commissioned by Nickelodeon, and for Munki and Trunk, also picked up by the network. “While I was by no means the main creative player in these two projects, they’re both great signs that South African content is sought after and can succeed in an international market,” he says.

While others in the industry yearn for Hollywood, Cameron wants to stay here and strengthen the local talent pool.
“If I get to carry on making silly ‘toons I’ll be a happy man. For anyone working in film and TV Hollywood has a big pull, but being able to stay here and help our industry grow into an international heavy hitter would be first prize,” he says. “Animation is very labour intensive, requires hundreds of skilled jobs, and if I can make silly gags and help contribute towards a large, sustainable industry I’d be extremely happy.” — Lesley Stones

Masi Mdingane (32)

Masi Mdingane (32)

Programmes manager at Trufm

As the programmes manager at radio station Trufm, Masi Mdingane gets the chance to spark debates and help shape public opinion.

“What I like about my job is the ability to shape society through on-air engagement and insightful, thought-provoking content,” he says. “This requires me to constantly have my ear to the ground and be on the lookout for the latest trends. I am moved by the power of radio and its ability to reach a large number of people, playing a role in shaping their understanding of different concepts.”

He also enjoys unearthing and coaching new talent for the station, ensuring that it has a consistent sound, and keeps up with trends on how audiences consume content. He carries the responsibility for growing the audience of this Eastern Cape-based channel — and he’s been doing that very successfully. “Since I joined the station, there has been a spike in audience growth from as low as 118 000 to 220 000 currently,” he says.

As well as helping the people in his team improve their skills, he is also a fan of continuous learning for himself so that he can grow his career.

“I am working towards being a force to be reckoned with in the media industry as a media strategist, focusing on managing talent, programming strategy implementation and innovation.

Mdingane was born in the Eastern Cape and graduated from Rhodes University with a BComm in Management & information Systems and a Postgraduate Diploma in Media Management.

He has been in the radio industry since 2004, gaining experience in radio programming, radio station management and sales and advertising. He first job was at Rhodes Music Radio, where he became the deputy station manager. He then moved to join 5FM as its music compiler, before switching to Trufm in 2015. There he’s discovered that his passion not only lies in managing and training talent and guiding the content production, but also in marketing and branding the station and promoting it through social media.

On the side, he was a panellist on the Liberty Radio Awards this year, where he judged the community and campus radio submissions, and he was a judge for the Metro FM Music Awards in 2012 and 2013. — Lesley Stones

Zoë Brown (28)

Zoë Brown (28)

Presenter on SABC’s Expresso show

Zoë Brown is the shining new star who greets early risers with a sharp and bright smile on SABC’s popular Expresso show. Every weekday morning from 6am, she’s bringing the wake-up vibes to sleepy South Africans. Brown also joins Carl Wastie and Barron Hufkie on the Kfm drive show, Flash Drive, one of the station’s most listened-to shows. Her trajectory has been impressive; she’s moved from Miss SA Teen Pageant Princess in 2007 to campus radio host at Stellenbosch University to where she is today.

“The media industry has always fascinated me,” says Brown. “I often joke when I say that I stumbled into my career by chance, but that’s more or less how I ended up on the Expresso morning show and Kfm 94.5 Flash Drive show. It was a series of small steps and listening to that voice in my head which brought me to where I am today.”

Brown’s story is as interesting as her career portfolio. She juggled life as a student and graveyard radio host for many years, finally surrendering her campus radio role at MFM 92.6 to focus more closely on her honours degree. Life, it seemed, had other plans because two months later she received a call from Kfm asking her to come in for an interview.

“I knew that being part of the Kfm team would open doors for me, so during my honours year I presented the weekend overnight shows from midnight until 4am,” she says. “I then made the decision to expand into TV, so I did a short TV presenting course after my degree and gave myself six months to get into the industry. I was told this was unrealistic, but I had my first day on TV exactly six months later.”

For Brown, her career is incredibly important and she brings a wealth of passion, focus and determination to bear on achieving her dreams. In 2019 she plans on taking her career to yet another height by completing her master’s.
Brown concludes. “I want to thank my parents for everything they’ve done. My father is my greatest role model — he is the reason I work as hard as I do — he never stopped and never gave up. One way or another he made sure I got to complete my honours degree without a student loan to my name. I hope by doing what I do, I make him proud.” — Tamsin Oxford

Mogapi Monnakgotla (29)

Mogapi Monnakgotla (29)

Founder, The Idiot’s Guide To Gaming

Turning gaming into a serious business is the goal of Mogapi David Monnakgotla, known to YouTube viewers as “Super Dave”.

He’s been a gamer since his primary school days, and now at 29 he has his own YouTube channel where he broadcasts a video series called Gaming In My Mama’s House.

“I started my website, back when blogging was the in thing. There were a number of blogs about fashion, food and photography but no one was playing in the technology or gaming space,” he says. “I only knew one gaming publication, a magazine titled NAG, so I started my own blog. I got my friends and colleagues to check it out and most people liked it.”

His postings piqued the interest of the radio station YFM, and he was invited to present a gaming feature that aired every Sunday night. When that ended its run, he got the opportunity to be the gaming guy on a youth lifestyle show called Frenzy on eTV, which aired every Tuesday.

“I was part of that show for a number of years and it was a great experience for me. I learned so much about what goes into a television show,” he says.

Monnakgotla left the show last year and started producing his own videos for his YouTube channel, where he reviews video games, chats about the latest news and evangelises about how much fun gaming is. He’s now back on YFM as a guest on the station’s flagship show YFM Mornings with DJ AnkleTap. “Youth from Gauteng can hear the hottest news, reviews and interviews from the gaming world every Wednesday morning at 6:50am,” he says.

“Gaming is definitely the next big thing here in South Africa, with companies jumping left, right and centre trying to get their hands on this hobby that’s turned into a huge revenue stream for some. I want to be part of that action, not only from a content creation point of view but by creating a platform that’s sustainable and that gives others an opportunity to get into the industry,” he says.

“Whether it’s on radio, TV, the internet or social media, the aim is to be a ‘game changer’ in the industry. I’m building my own gaming media empire.” — Lesley Stones

Zwelethu Radebe (29)

Zwelethu Radebe (29)

Commercials director (Egg Films)

Still in his twenties, Zwelethu Radebe has a large following among young African creatives hoping to make their mark in the film industry both as commercials directors/producers and filmmakers. Radebe has spent a busy four years directing commercials for both local and international agencies, shooting footage in nine countries across Africa and Europe for brands such as Castle Lager, Heineken, Mastercard, Orange and Playboy.

In 2017, he won a Silver Apex Award for Creative Effectiveness for Strongbow, as well as Best South African Short Film at the Durban, Jozi and Shnit film festivals and Best Short Film at Zanzibar International Film Festival for The Hangman, which has now won over 10 international awards. It’s the story of Khetha, a black prison warder guarding black inmates in Pretoria Central Prison’s gallows near the end of apartheid, whose job is further complicated when his estranged father is transferred to death row.

Radebe has a record of excellence, finishing top of his class throughout film school, allowing him to win numerous awards and the bursaries he needed to fund his studies. The trend continued at his first Loerie Awards, where, just months after graduating, he won a Student Silver from Ster-Kinekor for Thato. Since then, as a filmmaker, Radebe has won Best Short Film at the Jozi Film Festival, Best Film at Festival and Best International Drama at the Discover Film Festival in London. He has also won the Silver Main Jury Award and Gold Young Jury Award at the Best of International Short Film Festival which took place at the mythical Lumiere brothers’ Eden theatre, the oldest cinema in the world in La Ciotat, France. Most recently Radebe was nominated at the 12th SAFTA for Best South African Short Film and won Best Short Film at the Eko International Film Festival in Lagos, Nigeria.

The film bug bit Radebe quite early, and an obsession for telling stories through film saw him spend much of his youth behind the lens, recreating his favourite film scenes with nothing but an 8mm camcorder, his BMX and his younger brother as the actor.

“By the time I was cast as a caricature of cricket legend Lance ‘Zulu’ Klusener in a washing powder commercial, the film bug had its fangs in deep,” he remembers fondly.

His future endeavours as a filmmaker are to be able to tell African stories that the continent can celebrate. His vision is to one day to become influential in the global film arena to give hope to other aspiring African filmmakers, by showing them that a lot more is possible. — Sifiso Buthelezi

Linda Mnisi (24)

Linda Mnisi (24)

Journalist, Soweto TV

Giving a voice to the voiceless and holding people in power accountable are the twin reasons why Linda Mnisi loves his job as a journalist.

“Part of what we do is to be a voice for the voiceless and protect our communities by exposing ills that plague them, without fear or favour,” he says.

It would be a failure and mediocre journalism if his reporting did not benefit those on the ground, he believes. But that won’t happen, because 24-year-old Mnisi is already an award winner who scooped the 2017 Mail & Guardian Community Media Journalist of the Year award in the Township Entrepreneurship Awards category. He’s currently a news reporter on his home turf at Soweto TV, the country’s biggest community television station.

He started his career four years ago when he was studying for a business management diploma and volunteered at a nongovernmental organisation that takes care of orphaned children living with HIV and Aids. He joined the dynamic Indian community radio station, Lenz FM 93.6, as a host on the Drive Time show.

As an ambitious, talented and hardworking young man, he was hired as an intern by Soweto TV, as one of only three selected from 50 applicants. He proved worthy of the choice by winning the journalism award after just five months on the job.

“Working in a community-based newsroom birthed my love for human interest stories. These are the narratives of ordinary South Africans who bear the brunt of the decisions of self-interest often made by prominent South Africans,” he says. “These are the narratives of those who have lived in squalor for years, and against all odds, come out victorious. These stories are a reminder to me of who I am and where I come from.”

While he loves to focus on human interest stories, he is equally at home reporting on political news or light-hearted stories.

Mnisi has his career path mapped out, first planning to extend his radio experience by becoming a news anchor, then working on national TV news and then branching into producing and directing. Ultimately his goal is to become an international correspondent for a global media house, particularly if that lets him report from African countries plagued by poverty and injustice. — Lesley Stones

Ntombenhle Shezi (28)

Ntombenhle Shezi (28)

Assistant editor, ELLE Decoration and ELLE South Africa

As a young girl, Ntombenhle Shezi always had her head stuck in a magazine. Then she started writing letters to the editors, and was thrilled when they got published. Now at 28 she’s the assistant editor of two glossy titles, ELLE South Africa and ELLE Decoration.

“Magazines have always been part of my life and imagination — growing up I collected every title I could get my hands on,” she says. “In my teens I was reading everything from True Love to Drum, Seventeen to ELLE. Growing up in Soweto I remember going to what is now the Rosa Parks library, which was sponsored by the US embassy and had international titles like Vanity Fair, National Geographic, Harper’s Bazaar, Fortune Magazine and Vogue. I spent all my time there reading these titles.”

Studying literature and history at Wits University opened up a world of amazing black writers. “It also really affirmed me as a black person, and my time there still informs a lot of my own work to this day. My life’s work is about amplifying the stories of people who have been, and continue to be, marginalised; that is, black stories. I see that manifesting in my work and strongly believe that even if I were not working in the magazine industry, that would be my life’s mission,” she says.

Her first experience in putting together a magazine and learning how publishing works came from her time as an intern for Livity Africa’s Live Mag. That led to a job at the British Council, working on its newly introduced art programme, Connect ZA.

Shezi worked for several other respected publications before joining ELLE, where her role is to produce relevant and interesting content for both the print and digital platforms. “The work sees me constantly engaging with content and conversations around contemporary art and culture, fashion, deco and design, while pushing boundaries around content creation and tapping into the zeitgeists of our times,” she says.

Her career highlights so far include covering the Cannes Film Festival and interviewing fashion designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of KENZO in New York. She’s also particularly proud of ELLE’s March edition, a design and technology issue that explored how artists bring futurism and technology into their work. “The issue challenges what is traditionally seen in women’s magazines in South Africa.” — Lesley Stones

Boipelo Molwela (27)

Boipelo Molwela (27)

Producer, Audio Militia and founder, Kalakuta Republik

As a producer at the Audio Militia music agency, Boipelo Molwela says she gets paid to think. “Being a producer involves attending briefings, bringing deliverables to fruition and seeing them run wild on television and other platforms,” she says.

She’s a qualified sound engineer who graduated from the Academy of Sound Engineering. She went on to become a certified operator and instructor in Pro Tools equipment, and became the academy’s youngest lecturer to teach it.
But despite early mixing successes, Molwela realised that a life behind the sound desk was not for her. “Years of dissecting and mixing audio as well as a stint as a Pro Tools lecturer have armed me with the kind of inside knowledge that comes in handy,” she says. She now works as a producer at Audio Militia where she manages the recording and mixing of music sessions, jingles, voice-overs and other audio input from idea to execution, with her keen eye and ear for design helping her craft catchy-sounding content. She is also the founder of Kalakuta Republik, her own audio company.

“My office often feels like a playground because we literally get paid to come up with ideas,” she says. “As a creative professional I consistently need to be on the ball, and as a result a lot of my work habits have spilled over into the rest of my life.”

She’s also intrigued by the idea that being methodical and thoughtful can be fun. “As a person suffering from a short attention span, it really has taken me years to get to a point where I can apply my skill set diligently and consistently.”

Being a black, female sound engineer and producer is a rarity, and there were no role models to encourage her to follow that path. “I want to be a part of changing that,” she says.

In the future she wants to use her skills to offer a boutique service because she believes that what she offers as a producer and a creative will not be easy for others to replicate. She also wants to see more of the world. “I am extremely attracted to the idea of becoming a digital nomad, having a skill set that allows me to travel extensively and work in between.” — Lesley Stones

Lusanda Mgoduka (33)

Lusanda Mgoduka (33)

Producer/director, Five Star Media

A dearth of black female role models in the film industry meant Lusanda Mgoduka had to go to Los Angeles to realise what could be achieved.

Mgoduka wanted to be a director, but she was afraid that breaking into the field would be impossible, so she majored in production while studying for a degree in Motion Picture Medium at Afda.

“I secretly wanted to direct, but was scared I would not be able to make a living to support myself. At the time, I had never met a black director in the commercials and advertising space,” she says.

Switching her focus led to several successful years as a freelance production manager and producer, working on films including Machine Gun Preacher for Hollywood; Skyf, a South African film; and 10 Days in Sun City, a Nollywood movie.

But her real passion still lay in directing, and when she joined Five Star Media as a partner this year she turned towards that goal. A business trip to Los Angeles was the catalyst. There she discovered Women In Motion Pictures, a group of women with the cheeky and entirely inappropriate acronym Wimps, who work to create more opportunities for women.

Mgoduka is now setting up Women In Motion Pictures South Africa (Wimps SA), with help from her American role models and Kirsty Galliard, a partner at Five Star Media.

“This group aims to be a huge support to the women in our industry and hopefully it won’t be as hard for up-and-coming filmmakers as it was for me,” she says. “The toughness made my skin thick though, and I am grateful. The industry is changing and black directors are working, but we still only have three black female directors in this space. It’s a difficult industry to infiltrate, but with the right support and mindset, anything is possible.”

She has now directed a few commercials for Five Star Media and is trying to raise funds to direct a film, a Xhosa love story. “Most of us get into directing with the hope of winning an Oscar one day. That would be awesome, but I would love to make a great film that Africans love and speak about for decades to come. I want to tell beautiful stories that make people think, love and laugh.” — Lesley Stones